Now and then, players encounter incredible missions in video games that raise the bar to new heights. Common traits in stand-out levels are high replayability, unique sequences, and impressive setpieces. Check out the best video game levels ever from some of history's biggest games.
1. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2007) – All Ghillied Up
Most missions glamourize explosions and flashy firefights, but “All Ghillied Up” emphasizes stealth. Despite a linear level design, this mission still plays open-ended.
Players crawl through populated convoys, snipe enemies, and sprint through tall grass. Playing through this stage is tense, and catching a breather is tough. Future Call of Duty titles have recreated “All Ghillied Up” in various forms.
2. Grand Theft Auto V (2013) – Caida Libre
The release of Grand Theft Auto V created a media storm. Rockstar nailed it and designed a world filled to the brim with things to do. The single-player includes missions ranging from simple carjackings to adrenaline-fueled heists.
“Caida Libre” features consistent action that doesn't disappoint. Players must shoot down and chase a private jet across Blaine County on a bike. There are plenty of slow-motion jumps, going through tunnels and tight turns.
3. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019) – Clean House
The Modern Warfare Remake shifted tones and focused more on gritty realism. “Clean House” best showcases the style the developers wanted with this reimagining.
The mission features close-quarters combat in an everyday apartment building. Not everyone is an enemy, forcing players to think before shooting. The mission takes unexpected turns and keeps players feeling twitchy throughout. Not to mention, the entire mission plays in the dark with night vision goggles.
4. Far Cry 3 (2012) – Kick The Hornet's Nest
A popular opinion online: once a gamer plays one Far Cry game, he has played them all. Far Cry 3 generated that opinion. It has stunning visuals, reactive fire, and a compelling antagonist.
“Kick the Hornet's Nest” capitalizes on the fire physics of this game. The level involves attacking a pirate outpost and burning their weed farms with a flamethrower. Apart from the non-stop action, players love this mission for its dubstep track.
5. Titanfall 2 (2016) – Effect and Cause
Titanfall 2 featured a strong campaign for a linear single-player first-person shooter. Missions featured titan combat, high-octane parkour, and beautiful vistas. However, none of them came close to “Effect and Cause”.
The time travel aspect makes this mission unique. Blinking through time changes several of the game's core systems and adds a new layer of gameplay.
6. Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception – Stowaway
Players had high expectations for Uncharted 3 after the success of the second entry. Not only did it live up to the hype, it also raised the bar for scripted setpieces in video games. Naughty Dog specializes in level design, and the mission ” Stowaway “proves that.
In “Stowaway,” Nate finds himself in the bay of a cargo plane fighting enemies. The plane tears apart as players engage in melee and firefights. Every moment of this mission has you on the edge of your seat until the end as the plane crashes.
7. Half-Life 2 (2004) – We Dont Go to Ravenholm
For a single-player masterpiece cemented as one of the greatest of all time, look no further than Half-Life 2. The game's narrative follows Gordon Freeman as he explores a post-apocalyptic world ruled by the Combine.
“We Don't Go to Ravenholm” horrifies players. The town of Ravenholm gets overrun by head crabs and has little to no human population. Ominous music and haunting screams heard throughout the level add to the terror.
8. Resident Evil 4 (2005) – Chapter 1-1
Resident Evil 4 still gets praised today because of its intense atmospheric horror. The most prominent part of the game is the first chapter, where the horror slowly unfolds for players.
Leon gets overwhelmed by villagers with no escape in sight. Surviving seems unlikelier by the second, especially when an enemy with a chainsaw appears.
9. Control (2019) – Ashtray Maze
Control flew under the radar on first released. It holds up well and has some of the best-designed levels in video game history.
For many players, the “Ashtray Maze” stands out as the most memorable part of Control. This level features a shifting environment, puzzle-solving elements, and intense combat sequences. However, how the soundtrack reacts to the player's actions makes this level stand out.
10. Halo 3 (2007) – The Covenant
“The Covenant” epitomizes giant sandbox battles in the Halo franchise. Players must fight on foot and engage in vehicular combat across a large battlefield. An emotional score plays in the background that elevates the entire mission. Back in the day, players replayed this level many times due to its sandbox nature.
11. Bioshock (2007) – Fort Frolic
The original Bioshock had players explore an underground society called Rapture. The city boasts unique architecture reminiscent of the late 1900s. The area of the city dubbed “Fort Frolic” dedicates itself to entertainment and culture.
Sander Cohen, a deranged artist, terrorizes the Fort. Players can't find a linear way through the section; they have free reign over where they want to go.
12. Witcher 3 (2015) – Baron Quest
Designers make few games with as much love and attention as CD Projekt Red's The Witcher 3. This game features fleshed-out characters, excellent quests, and a detailed lore-rich world.
The “Baron” questline has the most impact, at least early on. This quest has a dark undertone and forces players to make several difficult choices. How the story unfolds is up to players. Remember that even small choices impact the outcome.
13. Max Payne (2012) – Chapter 14
Max Payne 3 comes the closest video game representation of John Wick-style action. The final chapter features pulse-pounding gunfights and intense on-the-go action in an airport. The finale forces players to mull down waves of enemies while heart-pounding tunes play in the background.
14. The Last of Us (2014) – Winter
The Last of Us earned a fandom for its gripping narrative adventure that takes place over a year. Throughout the game, players take control of Joel and view the narrative from his point of view. Then, “Winter” comes along.
Players must play as Ellie during most of the “Winter” section. This part of the game revamps the gameplay systems. Ellie is weaker yet more agile, forcing players to adopt different combat strategies.
15. What Remains of Edith Finch (2017) – Lewis
What Remains of Edith Finch features a captivating art design. Throughout the game, players discover what happened to the Finch family. Most of the family members meet a tragic death, and the player must find out why.
16. God of War (2018) – The Stranger
“The Stranger” introduces players to Baldur in God of War, and in spectacular fashion. Most games have boss fights after a few hours in-game, but not in God of War. Players have to face Baldur only a short time after the tutorial section.
The boss fight lets players unleash whatever they learned in the tutorial. Baldur may seem weak and harmless, though that is far from the case. God of War has amazing boss fights, and this one is no different.
17. Red Dead Redemption 2 (2018) – Blood Feuds
Red Dead Redemption 2 defines polished and detailed world-building in action. The game features a walking, talking, breathing world where players can do almost anything. The narrative follows Arthur and his gang of outlaws evading the authorities.
Jack gets kidnapped, and the gang comes together to save him. Playing through this mission feels like a movie. The entire quest design screams cinema, evidenced by the dramatic camera angles.
18. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice (2019) – Ashina Castle
Combat in Sekiro, while simple to learn, is difficult to master. The game has a ton of enemy and boss variety, and learning their individual attack patterns poses a feat in itself.
Taking over “Ashina Castle” will take many attempts to succeed. An entire army of Ashina Samurai waits at the front gate. Ascending the castle means going through monks who look harmless yet hit hard. Players must face Genichiro at the top of the castle in a spectacle of a boss fight.
20. Celeste (2018) – The Summit
Gamers loved playing Celeste for its simple gameplay mechanics and well-designed levels. Each stage had something unique to offer or a new move to learn. Not to mention, it has superb art design and soundtrack.
Throughout the game, players ascend a mountain over various levels. “The Summit” has players climb the mountain from the absolute bottom. Players must do so in one go using all the mechanics they've learned throughout the game.
21. Cyberpunk 2077 (2020) – The Hunt
Cyberpunk 2077 launched in a glitchy state but has since seen improvements with consistent patches. “The Hunt” is a side quest tucked away in the mid-game and hooks players from start to finish.
This side quest involves an investigative mission that takes players through Night City's darkest corners. Players must follow several leads to solve a kidnapping. It marks a change of pace from the action-packed narrative.
22. Elden Ring (2022) – Royal Capital
Elden Ring lives up to the hype and then some. Few games offer as much of a sense of exploration and challenge as Elden Ring.
Entering the “Royal Capital” for the first time, players take in the scale of the city. It's a detail-rich environment with outstanding street-level architecture. Exploring the entire city takes a few hours. It also features an entire underground section to fight through infested with enemies.